Top 10 Arts, Literature, and Music Vacations in Africa and the Middle East
Africa has inspired so many people to write about it you could easily take literary journeys around the continent including Karen Blixen’s legendary Kenyan experiences and journeys on the Nile River or to the famed city of Timbuktu. There’s also world famous music to take in particularly in Mali and Morocco.
- Out of Africa with Karen Blixen, Kenya
This autobiographical novel about the Danish expatriate running a coffee plantation can come to life when you visit the house she lived in, near the Ngong Hills beyond Nairobi. The house is now open to the public as a museum.
- Festival in the desert, Mali
This annual world music and Tuareg culture festival is a one-of-a-kind experience. It is modeled on traditional gatherings and celebrations of the Tuareg people and you get to interact with them and see their traditional singing and dancing. The festival also features musicians from Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Ethiopia and many other countries.
- Saint Louis jazz music, Senegal
This important jazz festival oozes charm in this French colonial city in the north of the country every year in May.
- Drumming, Mali
If you’re handy with a drum kit take a musical tour to West Africa to learn traditional drumming, dances, songs and music under the guidance and tuition of local masters. Or sample the local nightlife at many nightclubs with a flourishing modern and traditional music scene. You might even catch some of Mali’s greatest musicians if they’re in town including Toumani Diabate and singers Oumou Sangare, Habib Koite and Salif Keita.
- Djemaa el Fna, Morocco
This famed square in Marrakech is home to street art, storytellers and Berber musicians. It serves day and night as marketplace, outdoor eatery and musical fun fair all in one. At night the masters of al’aitah, the sung Arabic music of the Hauza plain come out to compete for the audience’s attention.
- Literary journeys, Nile River
This great river has been the source of many stories from Herodotus to Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. Those who have penned a line about the Nile include explorers Gustave Flaubert, Sir Richard Burton and John Speke. Or those that wrote about the explorers including Alan Moorehead’s The White Nile. Cairo boasts it’s fair share of native authors including Nobel prizewinner Naguib Mahfouz. While Alexandria had visits from Somerset Maugham, EM Forster and Noël Coward.
- Timbuktu, Mali
Traditionally Timbuktu itself was the center of a significant written tradition in Africa, at least back in the 14th century. Islamic institutions were erected and thousands of manuscripts were written on subjects of astronomy, music and botany, law, science, religion and history. There are an estimated 300-700,000 manuscripts still in the region and up to 80 private libraries where they are stored and some can be visited. The adventures of the explorers who strove to reach the legendary city can also paint much of its history. There’s French explorer René-Auguste Caillié’s three volumes, German geographer Heinrich Barth’s book Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa and Scot explorer Mungo Park’s sell out book Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa.
- KwaZulu Natal
Head for Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu Natal and the home of Alan Paton who wrote Cry, The Beloved Country. His study room on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Natal where he had been a student has been carefully recreated. The Alan Paton Centre holds Paton’s literary works and related documents and manuscripts, and papers pertaining to the Liberal Party and other institutions and organizations who contributed to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.
- Mapula Embroidery, South Africa
Visit this successful embroidery project that generates income for economically disadvantaged women. The vibrant, colorful cloths speak of the social and political issues that have also shaped the women’s personal experiences.
- Arts and crafts, Ghana
The Kumasi region is famous for its craftsmen. Explore the diverse craft villages and try your hand at anything from Adinkra printing, pot making, Kente weaving, brass casting or bead making.